Going natural: No makeup

Just when I had really started getting into makeup (I hadn’t even had a chance to blog about it here yet), I have to stop wearing it. My skin is doing some crazy things (dry, blotchy, then oily, then ???), so in order to know what’s really going on, I’m going natural.

Now is the best time to do it, since I’m exercising regularly and “clean eating“. After a month of this, I should be able to see results and determine if it was a phase, or something I need to go to a dermatologist for.

Honestly though, after only 3 days I can already see that the “dry” skin that I thought my skin type had morphed into is actually still the combination skin I’ve always had. The only thing that’s changed is that I am not normal/combo anymore (normal cheeks, oily T-Zone), but sensitive/combo (drier cheeks prone to redness and blotchiness, oily T-zone).

Switching back to a combination moisturiser from a normal/dry one, I saw the difference immediately. It is so important to get the fundamentals right, because there was no point to my switching foundations, learning correct application techniques and using fancy brushes if my skin was not in a good place.

I have no problem walking around in public without makeup on – I enjoyed playing with the makeup and using the new skills I learned (from YouTube). Now I moisturise, apply my sunscreen, and style my brows. I also use a bit of eye primer with some neutral eye shadow and mascara.


Going natural: No blowdrying

The last time I applied heat to my hair (hairdryer, flat iron) was over a month ago. This is the longest period of time I’ve gone in my life without trying to straighten my hair. Why have I done this?

Mainly because I was tired of having to get up even earlier to flat iron my hair before work. I always thought I looked better with straight hair, even though I would always get compliments when I wore it curly.

The thing is, my hair is not consistently curly. Over the last month, I’ve washed it almost everyday, put on some conditioner, combed it and let it air-dry halfway before plaiting it for the night. In the morning I undo the braid, add some texturising spray and mousse to the roots for volume and let it be.

I can never tell what the results will be though. Some days the curls will stay in all day, some days it will dissipate into waves halfway through the day, and other days it won’t even hold the curls for an hour so I have to put it in a bun.

Either way, it has been a liberating experiment, and one I will carry on with at least until the end of summer. I may even try the alternate rinse/shampoo method.


I’ve stripped my phone

Seeing as the end is nigh, and I was tired of the bubbling screen protector, last night I decided to remove it from my phone completely. This is after I removed the bulky case two weeks ago.

Of course, I dropped my phone onto the ground outside on Saturday, and was rewarded with damage to both corners on the RHS. It landed on its face as well, but seeing as it’s a Nokia, I have never been worried when it lands on its face.

I know I’ll have to change my attitude once my new phone arrives, but I’ll have to change my attitude about a lot of things once I make the jump.



My experience with AliExpress: An analysis.

I’ve been very hesitant to jump into online shopping – I made my first online purchase at the end of 2012 from Takealot only after being reassured by colleagues over a period of a few weeks that, seriously, it’s fine, just do it.

I was even more hesitant to purchase goods from overseas, although Raru helped get me through that.

I still had one final hurdle though, which was to actually order something from overseas. A few weeks ago, a colleague spoke to me about ordering stuff off AliExpress. I knew that they are the biggest online shopping site in the world, but I also knew that they had a big problem with fake goods a while back.

As a seasoned customer of various Chinese shops since I was a kid, the fake goods part didn’t really bother me. After all, if I’m shopping in Chinatown, it’s not because I’m looking for fake brands, but because I need to get things I can’t get in a normal mall.

I was more concerned about customs ripping me off on taxes, and the SAPO stealing my stuff. I decided to start with a few small electronic gadgets, and staying out of the clothing section, because that 40% tax would destroy me.

I don’t think “overwhelmed” is an adequate word to describe the feeling whilst browsing the site. There are just so many things. So many. I had to whittle my cart down to $18 (~R255) of goods. I ended up ordering

  • A pink band replacement for my Vivofit
  • A pair of Bluetooth sport earphones for the SO
  • Some stickers
  • A phone cover
  • A Hello Kitty wireless mouse

Within an hour of placing the order, one of the sellers contacted me to confirm the size of my Vivofit band (it was past midnight on that side). Within a day, all my orders had gone through processing and been shipped. Within 2 days, all of them were “awaiting delivery” and the 60 day countdown had begun.

Yes, all the orders had a 15-60 day delivery time because they all had free shipping, but I figure if there’s going to be any delay, it’s going to happen when it arrives at customs. So now I wait with bated breath.


My month long carb cycling experiment is over: The food

Getting the food part right is the most critical aspect of carb cycling. To start off, I tweaked Hugh Rivera’s formula to calculate the amount of carbs I needed per day.

My weigh-in days are Wednesdays and Sundays. I would take the Sunday reading from the Withings and plug those values into the spreadsheet.

The values needed are body weight (kg) and body fat (%). My spreadsheet converts my weight to lb and calculate my lean body mass in lb. That last measurement forms the basis of the formulas for calculating macros.

  • Low Carb Day (LCD): 0.8 * lean body mass
  • Moderate Carb Day (MCD): 1.25 * LCD
  • High Carb Day (HCD): 2 * LCD

By the end of this cycle, my lean mass was at 102 lb. This means that last week I ate 82g, 102g and 151g on LCD, MCD, and HCD respectively. Protein and fat are constant amounts (1.3 * lean body mass and 0.25 * lean body mass).

The problem I had for the first two weeks was because I was coming out of my extended low carb calorie deficit, having so much carbs again was a shock to the system. As my my weight was higher, and for the first week I used the formula without changing it, I was consuming 175g of carbs on HCDs.

This was far too much for me to handle, but I forced it down so that I could see this experiment through to the end. As the weeks went by, I adjusted the formula slightly to what I’ve mentioned above. My overall calorie intake ranged between 1200 and 1600 calories.

The source of carbs is also very important. All carbs need to come from clean, unprocessed sources. I’ve favoured rolled oats and sweet potato, with brown rice, lentils and couscous as alternates.

The typical meal plan I followed consisted of the following:

Breakfast (all days)

  • 20g rolled oats
  • 15g soy protein isolate
  • 10g Futurelife Smart Food (Chocolate Flavour)

Morning Snack

  • 1 medium apple (~90g)


  • 100g soypea balls (not sure when I’ll post this recipe, but it’s basically soybeans and chickpeas)
  • 100g protein (tuna/mackerel/chicken/pork)
  • 50g fat free chunky cottage cheese
  • Couscous/sweet potato (HCD)

Pre Workout

  • A large orange (~100g) (MCD+HCD)

Post Workout Shake (MCD + HCD)

  • 1 medium apple (~90g)
  • 25g soy protein isolate
  • 10g Futurelife High Protein (Chocolate)
  • 1 cup water infused with 2 green tea bags
  • 1 tbsp mixed raw seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries


  • 100g chicken breast
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g fat free chunky cottage cheese
  • Sweet potato (HCD)
  • Couscous/lentils (HCD)

Yes, I ate like that for the entire month of July. No, it didn’t really bother me. Once I am determined to do something, very little can make me change my mind. I have overcome my fear of salt though. Also, I’m quite sure I will never eat tuna again once I’ve reached maintenance.

What may stand out about this plan is that there are no “reward days” or “cheat meals”. That’s because that’s nonsense. You either do something right, or don’t do it at all. I haven’t had a jelly sweet in over 8 months, and I think I’ve forgotten what chips taste like.

I have made provision for some dark chocolate once every few days or so, because can a life without chocolate be called a life?



My month-long carb cycling experiment is over: What, why and how

Last month, I embarked on an experiment. I had hit a plateau in My Epic Revamp (Fitness Edition), so I was willing to try anything to kickstart it again. Now that the month is over, I’m taking this week to write a series of posts about it.


Carb cycling is a technique used mainly by bodybuilders to drop their body fat percentage, usually before a competition. About 8 weeks before, they will enter the carb cycle to get their body fat down as low as they can, before bringing it up again gradually after the competition (or whatever). It involves cycling the amount of carbs you eat over a set period of time.


Seeing as my extended calorie deficit was not helping me, I needed to switch things up and try a new approach. I feel like I’ve been levelling up my fitness and nutrition skills over the last few months, so I’ve been discarding long-held myths and embracing my newfound knowledge to my goals. I wanted to keep my momentum going, and break out of the plateau.


I chose to do the LMH approach: low carb day, moderate carb day, high carb day. Starting on a Monday, I would have minimal carbs, then build up to Wednesday, when I would have my max carbs. From Thursday, I would do low, moderate, low, then high on Sunday. The intensity of the workout session would match the amount of carbs i.e. low carb day has Pilates and stretches, moderate carb day has cardio and high carb day has weights and boxing.

I’ll go into more detail about the various aspects over the course of the week, share my results and the way forward.


Carb cycling: I’m embarking on a month-long experiment

Since changing my diet and exercise, and trying out some new things, I’ve lost 8 kg at a rate of 1kg a week, increased my fitness and lost about 12cm all over.

What hasn’t changed much since I started is my body fat %. It’s far too high, of course, and has been for years. What’s frustrated me over the last 8 weeks has been the fact that even with the weight drop, it’s clear that I didn’t lose much fat. It was mostly lean mass I was losing.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve lost almost another kg, at a rate of 0.3kg a week. That’s basically nothing. Which is why I decided to do some further research and came across carb cycling. It was then that I realised what I had been doing wrong.

I’ve reached a plateau because not only have I been in an extended calorie deficit, but I was also counting the carbs from free veggies as part of my daily calorie intake. Essentially, I was getting no starchy carbs at all for about half the week for the last 8 weeks.

This messes with leptin and ghrelin and a bunch of other hormones that help regulate appetite, satiety, and body fat composition. I’ve basically told my metabolism that it’s not getting anywhere near the amount of carbs it wants, so slow the hell down.

This is why, starting tomorrow, I’m beginning my carb cycling regime. I’m taking the low carb/moderate carb/high carb approach, spread across the week so that the carbs build up, come down, then build up again over the days.

In this way, my hormone levels should return to normal, and I will see increased fat loss once my body realises I’m actually not trying to starve it. Part of the problem was increasing my protein and veggie intake was already so filling to me, that I simply was not able to eat some bloaty carbs, even if I wanted to.

I’ve linked to Hugo Rivera’s page there because I like the formula he has used to calculate the gram amounts of carbs for the different days. I’ve set up a spreadsheet where I input my current body weight and fat %, and output my lean mass and macro amounts for the upcoming week.

I’m really excited to start this next phase of My Epic Revamp. It’s not just about the weight loss, though that is a big part of it. It’s just really awesome to be able to easily stretch to my toes, and to feel my biceps developing from the weights I’ve been lifting.